May 31

Apprenticeships: How they work and are they for you?

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Apprenticeships are currently being pushed by the government as they provide a way into work, particularly for young people, which benefits both the employer and the apprentice. For businesses, apprenticeships offer a great way to employ fresh talent which can bring new ideas and energy whilst at the same time not costing little.

For the apprentice, they get to have a real job and earn a salary, have paid holiday, work towards a nationally recognised qualification and increase their future prospects.

With the creation of The National Apprenticeship Service there has never been an easier time to hire an apprentice or to be one, so Moneymagpie has put together this guide to tell you everything you need to know about apprenticeships, whether you are an employer or a potential apprentice.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a real job that is performed alongside training and usually provided in conjunction with the government. It used to be largely associated with blue collar industries such as construction but increasingly apprenticeships are opening up in other fields and you can now do an apprenticeship in anything from law to journalism. It is generally expected that the apprentice will find a full time job in their sector upon completing their apprenticeship.

  • Apprenticeships can last between one to four years, although the average apprenticeship will be one to two years.
  • Apprenticeships have a salary and have to be paid at least the national minimum wage.
  • The national minimum wage is different for apprentices however; for apprentices aged under 19 it is currently £2.68, and the same is true for apprentices over 19 during their first year, although once they have completed their first year they are entitled to the standard national minimum wage for their age.
  • Alongside the job an apprentice will also be training and working towards a nationally recognised qualification; either an NVQ, a GNVQ or a Foundation Degree.
  • How your training will be funded depends on your age and previous training, but the government and the employer are usually responsible for funding the training, although you may be asked to contribute, particularly if you’re over 24 and studying an advanced or higher apprenticeship.
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What are the advantages of taking on an apprentice?

Apprentices help businesses grow, with 96% of employers saying that taking on apprentices has benefited their business and 72% reporting an increase in productivity.

The government also states that the average person completing an apprenticeship increases productivity by £214 a week, including increased profits, reduced prices and higher quality products.

It’s also a great way to find fresh talent and  introduce new ideas into your business, as well as a strong investment in your staff and business’s future.

How do I take on an apprentice?

Most small businesses tend to work with a training organisation. A training organisation will advertise any apprenticeship vacancies, help during the recruitment process, devise and implement training for the apprentice that reflects the business’s needs, and carry out regular tests before providing feedback to the company.

To find an apprenticeship training organisation in your area click here for a great search tool. 

As an employer you must employ the apprentice for a minimum of thirty hours a week, pay the national minimum wage (see above for details), help with the apprentice’s on the job learning and review the apprentice as they carry out their duties.

If you would like to introduce an apprentice into your business but you are unsure of whether you can commit to the full time required then it might be worth finding an Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA). The ATA will act as the apprentice’s employer and then place them with your business as a host employer.

This is particularly handy for businesses that are basically a one-man-band. Buy being a host employer you will be responsible for paying the apprentice’s wages and a management fee to the ATA. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to see the apprenticeship through to the end, the apprentice will be relocated to another host employer.

Funding an apprenticeship

As the employer you will work in conjunction with the government to help fund the apprenticeship. You will have to pay the minimum wage and may have to contribute towards the apprentice’s training.

You can apply for government funding to cover the cost of your apprentice’s training, which is usually paid directly to the learning provider. The amount you get depends on the apprentice’s age and the sector. If the apprentice is aged between 16-18 the government will cover up to 100% of the training costs up to Advanced Level 3.

If the apprentice is aged between 19-24 the government will pay up to 50% of the course costs and if the employer is 25 or older the government may only pay a contribution. Be aware that if the apprentice is a graduate they will not be eligible for funding and you will have to cover all the cost.

There are also, however, grants available for employers who take on apprentices. The AGE 16-24 Grant for Employers supports small to medium businesses which would not be able to employ apprentices otherwise.

It offers a grant of £1,500 per apprentice for up to ten apprentices. You are eligible for this grant if you have a business with less than 1,000 employees and if your business is new to apprenticeships or hasn’t taken on someone as an apprentice in the last 12 months.

If your employee is 24 or older and planning on taking an Advanced or Higher Apprenticeship then they may be eligible for a 24+ Advanced Learning Loan. The maximum loan amount that will be given will assume that you, as the employer, will finance 50% of the course. The employee won’t have to pay back the loan until they start earning over £21,000.

Potential apprentice

What are the advantages of taking an apprenticeship?

Being an apprentice offers you the chance to learn while you earn. You have a real job, at least 30 hours a week, with a proper salary that must meet the minimum wage, whilst at the same time you are working towards a recognised qualification.

It’s also a great way to contribute towards your future, particularly in times when youth unemployment is high. 85% of those who take an apprenticeship will stay in employment and two thirds of those will stay with the same employer. Furthermore, those with an Advanced Apprenticeship earn £117,000 more during their career than a person without.

Be aware that if you are a graduate or are over 24 you may struggle to get funding for your apprenticeship. If you are over 24 then you may be entitled to a 24+ Advanced Learning Loan which you won’t have to pay back until you start earning £21,000. Your employer will be expected, in any case, to make a significant contribution towards the cost of your training.

How do I find an apprenticeship?

To begin searching for apprenticeships use this useful government search tool which allows you to search by employment sector (healthcare, construction, banking etc) and by location. To be eligible you must be 16 or over and not currently taking part in full time education. If you took your GCSE’s more than five years ago and do not have good grade in Maths or English, or don’t have any top grades (A /A*) you will have to take a literacy and numeracy test.

For further information take a look at which tells you just about everything you need to know about apprenticeships, whether you’re an employer or a potential apprentice.

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